For the unaffected, arthritis is an inevitable part of getting older. But for the 50 million Americans who live with this painful condition, it is a staggering impediment to enjoying life. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability and can affect people of all ages. It’s no wonder that arthritic patients are turning to cannabis, a plant that has been lauded as an analgesic for centuries. We’re here to suggest some tried and true strains for relieving arthritic pain, and to provide a breakdown of how cannabis works to medicate this condition.
A hybrid that leans towards sativa, Harlequin is CBD rich (13.5%) with a relatively low THC (10%) content. That means it will give you a powerful medicinal boost with a light buzz. It’s no wonder that this strain is most commonly used for pain. One reviewer said, “It helps me deal with the pain of end-stage osteoarthritis. It does not make me hungry which is a [big] plus.”
This CBD-laden strain is a hybrid with a 70% indica leaning. Pennywise has a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD, making it an ideal therapeutic option for those who want to be able to function while medicated. In addition to being used for pain, this strain is frequently used to alleviate anxiety and depression, two indirect side-effects of living with the kind of chronic pain created by arthritis.
A rarity, ACDC is bred to have a minimal quantity of THC (an average of 1%), but an extremely high CBD content relative to most other cannabis strains (the highest test showed 16.3%). Psychoactive effects are barely perceptible, but the pain relief is indisputable. That’s why ACDC is used to treat pain more than any other symptom.
A Wikileaf reviewer said, “AC/DC is a strain that works beautifully! I vape it and almost instantly my stomach pain subsides! Previously I would have to use pharmaceutical drugs to make the pain subside but with AC/DC, a few inhales later and my stomach calms down. Plus, without psychoactive effects, I can medicate ANY time of day!!”
Another strain that puts a premium on CBD content, Cannatonic is bred to have a 1:1 THC to CBD ratio. Unlike Harlequin or ACDC, this strain will induce a noticeable high along with significant therapeutic relief. Cannatonic is most commonly used for pain, especially before bed. As one reviewer noted, Cannatonic “gives a smooth, relaxing feel. Best after a hard and/or stressful day of work.”
Girl Scout Cookies
Unlike most of the strains on this list, the medicinal potency of this strain lies in its THC content. It averages 26% THC and 1% CBD, so you should expect a potent psychoactive response. An indica leaning hybrid with a powerful sedative effect, Girl Scout Cookies is an effective strain for nighttime use. One reviewer called this strain “a must have for those looking to treat chronic pain and throw away any stress/anxiety!”
The Most Common Arthritic Conditions: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Arthritic symptoms target the joints and include decreased range of motion, swelling, pain, redness, and stiffness. While these are the common symptoms of arthritis, there are multiple forms of this inflammatory disease. The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is involved in the deterioration of a joint’s cartilage, the friction-protective coating at the ends of bones. Over time, osteoarthritis will compromise cartilage in a way that causes bones to make direct contact. This bone to bone grinding is painful and movement-restricting.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune condition that involves the immune system attacking the protective lining of the joint, the synovial membrane. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis will destroy cartilage and bone.
How Cannabis Relieves Arthritis
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Cannabis is a great therapeutic option for arthritic patients. That’s because independently, both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are anti-inflammatories. Each cannabinoid uses a unique molecular pathway within the endocannabinoid system to block inflammation inducing agents. Together, the synergistic relationship between THC and CBD makes cannabis a powerful anti-inflammatory.
A 2017 study found that CBD’s mechanism to block inflammation may also be useful in stopping the progression of the inflammation that causes osteoarthritis. This 2016 study found that these results are also achieved when cannabis is applied topically to inflamed joints. Additionally, THC has been demonstrated as an immunosuppressant, and in the case of the auto-immune disease that is rheumatoid arthritis, this is a critical finding for patients looking for alternative treatment to pharmaceuticals.
Best Consumption Methods for Pain Relief
Smoking weed is still the most commonly used method of consumption, but it is far from being the only or even the best way.
If you’re looking for fast relief, inhalation will produce the quickest results. It takes seconds after inhalation for cannabis smoke to be absorbed by the lungs, which rapidly distribute the cannabinoids into the bloodstream and brain. Inhalation methods include smoking, vaping, and dabbing. Vaping does not involve combustion, so it is a healthier alternative to smoking. Dabbing is another inhalation mechanism that uses extreme heat to achieve potent results—dabbing is not for the faint of heart. However, it is the quickest way to absorb cannabinoids.
Cannabis is also ingestible. Consuming cannabis edibles is the slowest way to experience the effects of cannabinoids because they are absorbed at digestion’s pace. However, they can provide powerful relief that lasts for hours. If you want to ingest cannabis with healthy ingredients and without psychoactive effects, you can try juicing raw cannabis. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this may be a helpful supplement to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Finally, cannabis can be applied topically. Cannabis infused balms, lotions, and salves are frequently used to treat localized pain because of cannabis’ anti-inflammatory effects. And because these are applied to the skin rather than absorbed into the bloodstream, they will not get you high.
There is no universal standard when it comes to how cannabis will affect the body. Every metabolism, microbiome, genetic makeup, etc. is different, so don’t be discouraged if you try one strain or consumption method and don’t get the results you are looking. Enough evidence exists showing that cannabis is an avenue well worth exploring on your journey to relief.